G M Hopkins- Gerard Manley Hopkins, born on 28 July 1844 in Stratford, Essex, England, is regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era. Hopkins is known for his poetry concerning religion and the nature as major themes and the notion melancholy has been expressed in his major works.
Carrion Comfort- “Carrion Comfort” is a dark poem with a very unpleasant undertone and expresses melancholy, like many of Hopkins major works. The poem is a rejection of despair and represents the poet’s anger towards the almighty for bestowing the despair on the beings who have been loving and faithful towards him.
Setting of Carrion Comfort-
The poem is set as a declaration and conversation with Self. The poet had just been through a rigorous battle with depression before he wrote Carrion Comfort and so the notion of despair and suffering expressed in the poem can be concluded as a personal experience. The poem is an unpleasant conversation with the Self where the poet declares, questions and expresses anger towards his own beliefs, and in the entire process, he is engaged in an internal battle with himself.
Poetic Devices in Carrion Comfort-
The emotion of despair is personified by addressing it using “thou”. God is also personified “thou”/ “Thy wring-world right foot rock?”
“Thy wring-world right foot rock?” / “With darkest devouring eyes my” / “In me or, most weary, cry I can no more”
The poem does not follow any rhyme scheme or rhythmic musical or lyric pattern as such. The poem follows the rhythm of natural speech and lacks consistency in rhyming words or lines.
Summary of Carrion Comfort-
“Carrion Comfort” is a dark, melancholy poem which represents the poet’s internal battle with his lifelong beliefs, his struggle with depression, the consequent despair and his dwindling faith on God. The speaker starts the poem by making a declaration of not losing to the “despair”. He compares the emotion of despair metaphorically to a “feast” which is the symbolic representation of the title, “Carrion”. Carrion meaning dead and decaying flesh, provides an unpleasant image of vultures feasting on dead flesh. The poet is determined to survive this despair and outlive the misery. The “last strands of man” might have gone slack and even though in his weariness he might speak of giving up but in actuality, the poet is never quitting. Then the poet questions the personified terrible despair and the Almighty, he asks why he has been crushed under the giant foot of despair and why are the dark eyes of the horrible despair devouring his “bruised bones” when all he wishes for is to “flee” from the dark influence.
The last stanza of the poem is an answer to the questions posed by the poet himself, to himself. The poet realises that the despair has not crushed his spirits, rather the despair has changed him for good, the suffering has strengthened his soul and the poet’s victorious emergence from the dark has filled his soul with more joy and courage. Even after the realisation, the poet cannot help questioning his faith and the integrity of God, unable to understand the reason for the suffering he has been made to bear. He is in a dilemma, whether he should be thankful to God for making him suffer to gain strength as an end or whether he should be proud of himself for surviving the battle courageously. The poet then concludes the poem by looking back at his struggles “now done darkness”, realising that he was not only struggling to overcome depression but his internal battle was also with God, his faith and his lifelong beliefs.
Critical Analysis of Carrion Comfort-
“Carrion Comfort” is a brilliant poem providing a realistic image of the struggle of depression and the unpleasantness that accompanies this mental illness. The poem was written during the era where the awareness regarding psychological and mental well-being was little to none, and so the magnificence of this poem lies in its successful representation of melancholy and strength. The poem is also indicative of the powerful hold of religion and beliefs over the individual, the dwindling in the faith in both may create a notion of crisis, an internal battle with Self and the loss of individual identity and being.
Tone of Carrion Comfort-
The tone of the poem changes from that of expressing strength, to doubt, to questioning one’s being and then the ultimate realisation. The poem has an unpleasant undertone with the constant presence of melancholy and pain.
Conclusion- “Carrion Comfort” is an amazing poem of the Victorian era and brilliantly represents the poet’s battle with depression. Though the poem has a dark and unpleasant undertone, it successfully establishes hope and strength through poet’s determination of fighting and his consequent victory over the omnipresent despair.